Spotlight: ultra-violent 1997 shooter Postal goes on a rampage against sugary Android casual games


Developer: Running With ScissorsDownload: Android (Amazon app store)
Category: GamesPrice: $1.99

What is this, a post delivery simulator? Um, no. It's something even crazier! Ever heard the expression "going postal"? If not, we'll do the Urban Dictionary consultation work for you. "Originally coined from a series of real life shootings carried out by postal service workers, it now means that someone is about to go off the deep end." What can we say - Postal is an appropriate title for a game that, 18 years after its original release, is still gaming's darkest, most accomplished mass murderer simulator! Now that the game is on Android, the only thing about it that's changed at all, is that you can go Postal on the go. Otherwise, things are exactly the same, to an extent that's somewhat absurd, but makes for such a unique story. Gather round!

In just three weeks after its initial 1997 PC launch, Postal was pulled from major retail shelves, banned in over ten countries, and included on Senator Liebermann of Connecticut’s list of the worst things in America. Wow, apparently authorities took the mindless shooting of lifeless pixels very seriously back in the day! You'd think we've gotten over that by now, seeing that the Grand Theft Auto games are now regarded as some of gaming's finest, most immersive experiences - without overlooking their comprehensive depictions of violence, rendered in excruciating detail.

But nada! When Running With Scissors, the game studio that proudly created one of the worst things in America, tried to publish Postal on Android, it met the stiff opposition of Google. Apparently, the dated, isometric game is so dangerous and horrific, even Google Play, where all the GTA games are sold, can't handle it! Do we have to remind you that in the GTA games, one can pay sex workers for their services, then violently kill them and steal their money? By banning a 1997 game in 2015, all Google accomplished was to out an embarrassing inconsistency in its censorship policy. Meanwhile Amazon, which initially rejected Postal from its app store too, ultimately gave it a pass. Apparently, the retailer was a little slow to remember it had been selling the original PC game for quite a while, before banning the mobile version. But luckily, common sense prevailed.
Onto the game itself! Postal isn't considered a cult classic because it's "this great 90s game" or anything. No, it was, and it still is a mediocre game where you massacre primitive depictions of humans for dumb fun. The graphics are still a mixed bag - the backdrops are well-drawn, but the characters and effects are laughable. The plot is, literally, kill everyone because you have guns and you're mental. And the intense violence that got retailers old and new all worked up, is as campy as it's always been. What's the big deal about Postal, then? Realistically, gamers were interested in it because it was banned, a "forbidden fruit". Riding a wave of controversy and spreading by word of mouth, Postal unexpectedly became an underground classic, akin to B-rated horror films. But make no mistake, this isn't the story of a poor product blowing up due to hype! If one dares to think deeper about Postal and how it stands against other games, they might just get a noxious whiff off its dark brilliance.

Postal's own limitations, born out of budget constraints and surprisingly clever design, work feverishly well for, not against it. They lend a vicious rawness to it that few game developers have dared attempt since. There's no soundtrack to be heard - the game is orchestrated by gunshots, screams, and the ramblings of an armed madman who obeys your every order. There are no quests, level-ups, or items either - each of the game's 27 levels ends when you complete the simple objective of pumping everything that moves full of lead. The cartoonish watercolor style, in which the backdrops are drawn, is distorted by deliberately dim colors and lighting. Running With Scissors literally painted the game world as seen through the eyes of its deranged, trenchcoat-wearing protagonist/antagonist! The deliberately awful presentation, combined with the simple and brutal gameplay, turns Postal into a disturbingly real look inside the simple, brutal mind of a paranoid killer on the loose. From a pure storytelling perspective, that's quite the accomplishment, especially considering how old and limited the game is.

Still, do we have the moral right to congratulate RWS on making the ultimate mass murderer simulator with a clean conscience? That seems like a question more appropriate for the year 1997, yet we're in 2015 now, and what do you know - Postal is still banned! Even several million-dollar GTA games later, it seems the world is yet to make up its mind on the extent to which violence in entertainment is acceptable. What we're 100% sure of, however, is that this hot potato of a game can still throw gamers, critics, and retailers a challenge! And with its Android port finally on the market, Postal is a much welcome revolt against the cavalcade of sickly-sweet "casual games" that plague the mobile space.

Postal costs $2 for the whole thing at the Amazon App Store. For this kind of money, it offers a piece of video game history that's still relevant today, as well as lasting fun, soaking in its crazy atmosphere and shooting badly animated pixels.

Developer: Running With ScissorsDownload: Android (Amazon app store)
Category: GamesPrice: $1.99

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